China issues first new videogame approvals in almost a year

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A Reuters (opens in new tab) report says China has resumed issuing publication licenses for videogames by granting approvals for 45 new games, the first such license approvals since July 2021. 

The freeze on new game approvals came as part of China's effort to combat online gaming addiction (opens in new tab) among young people, and to crack down on games that portray the "wrong set of values," including same-sex relationships and overly effeminate men (opens in new tab).

Hundreds of Chinese gaming companies pledged to "strictly abide (opens in new tab)" by the newly-introduced rules, including the implementation of facial recognition technology (opens in new tab) to keep underage gamers from playing when they're not supposed to be, but that didn't convince regulators to ease up. In fact, in March China's Cyberspace Administration revealed plans to expand the country's online gaming limits to encompass livestreaming and social media (opens in new tab) in order to "create a clean cyberspace for the majority of netizens, especially young people."

But the regulations have taken a toll on Chinese game and internet companies: Major players like Tencent, Iqiyi, Bilibili, and Netease saw significant drop-offs in their share prices as a result of the crackdown, and a South China Morning Post report in December 2021 said roughly 14,000 "small studios and gaming-related firms" in China had gone out of business over the past several months.

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Interestingly, Reuters tech correspondent Josh Ye said that neither Tencent nor Netease games were on the list, although industry analyst Daniel Ahmad confirmed that the exclusion isn't necessarily noteworthy: "Even in prior batches, prior to the freezes, there have been times where major companies weren't on the list," he tweeted (opens in new tab).

The length of the approval freeze isn't unprecedented either: The Chinese government's previous halt on licensing for new game publications was lifted in December 2018, roughly nine months after it was imposed.